Agreement gives WestJet wider access to U.S.
Joanne Paulson, The StarPhoenix
Published: Wednesday, July 09, 2008
An agreement WestJet has struck with Southwest Airlines will offer local flying customers more -- and better streamlined -- options for travel into the United States, says the Calgary-based airline.
"For somebody in Saskatoon, it opens up the entire Southwest market to fly to relatively conveniently," Richard Bartrem, WestJet's vice-president of communications, said in an interview.
"If you look at it just from a scale perspective, we have across our entire network roughly 380 flights a day. Southwest Airlines has 380 flights to Las Vegas.
"They run 3,400 flights a day across their network. . . . It gives us access into that massive market."
WestJet announced Tuesday a codeshare agreement with Southwest Airlines Co., which will mark the American carrier's first move into the Canadian market and expand WestJet's service into the U.S.
The two airlines will essentially sell seats on each others' flights. WestJet will gain access into major U.S. centres, a market traditionally dominated by Air Canada.
Bartrem gives the example of a Saskatoon resident wanting to visit El Paso, Texas.
"Today, you would have to do that on a variety of airlines connecting here, there and everywhere to get there. Codeshare means that you would be able to go onto the westjet.com website and what you would see is two flights, essentially. You would fly from Saskatoon to a point in the U.S. on a WestJet flight. (Hypothetically) that WestJet flight would actually have two flight numbers -- WestJet Flight 123 and Southwest Flight 456."
Ticketing, boarding passes and baggage handling would all be streamlined through the new system, said Bartrem.
There may be a connection in Calgary for Saskatoon passengers, but the agreement "opens up a world that wasn't there prior (to this)," said Bartrem.
WestJet hopes to have the codeshare agreement in place by late 2009. Before that, a distribution agreement will allow passengers to go to Southwest.com and book across the WestJet network.
Bill Restall, president and CEO of the Saskatoon Airport Authority, said the agreement will give WestJet "tremendous market penetration" considering it had no booking ability from the U.S. into Canada.
"I don't think it will have as big an impact on our marketplace as a place like Calgary, because we would have to flow through a WestJet gateway to get across the border," said Restall.
"But it adds another opportunity for the consumer to do some price checks and alternative planning."
From the airport authority's perspective, anything that increases customers' options to fly out of -- or into -- the community is welcome, he said.
The Saskatoon airport will also welcome United Airlines starting in September, with twice-a-day flights into Denver, Colo. The 50-seat Denver flights will allow customers a new hub connection with the United States. Northwest already flies out of Saskatoon into Minneapolis, another airline hub.
"Air Canada and WestJet keep expanding their connectivity through here so we're real pleased," said Restall.
© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2008
How exciting! I can't wait to see what other flights will be offered from westjet, northwest, united and southwest. I feel like this helps secure an increased passenger number at YXE